Court halts county directive stopping firm from paying medical bills for Mombasa’s poor

The entrance to the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in March last year.

The entrance to the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in March last year.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

The High Court in Mombasa has stopped the implementation of a directive stopping Mombasa Cement from helping patients who are unable to pay hefty bills at the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital. 

Justice Olga Sewe certified as urgent an application seeking to quash the county’s directive and allowed a lobby group to file judicial proceedings to permanently suspend a memo communicating the decree. 

“I am satisfied that the application is warranted. Accordingly, directions are hereby given that the leave be and is hereby granted to the applicant to file a judicial review. The leave thus granted to operate as a stay of implementation of the directive contained in the memo to heads of the Department of Health dated April 20, 2023,” said the judge. 

Justice Sewe further directed that the substantive Judicial Review application be filed within 21 days. 

In the memo, County Executive in charge of Health Swabah Ahmed sent out a communication to the chief officers of Medical Services and Coast General directing them that no donation or financial support should either be sought or allowed to be given to any health facility in the county. 

The county also served the company with a cease and desist notice against philanthropic activities, and leave the patients be.

Records show that Mr Hasmukh Patel uses up to Sh2 million daily through his company, Mombasa Cement, to free patients stuck at the main hospital, as well as other facilities in the county. 

Both the businessman and thousands of his beneficiaries and locals were shocked by the directive, considering that the county government-owned hospital has been making money through the tycoon’s charitable deeds. 

The company has deployed staff at the hospital, who receive, verify and pay the bills directly to the hospital before presenting receipts to the head office. 

Coast General, the largest hospital in Mombasa County and the entire coastal region, also serves patients from Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Taita Taveta, and Tana River counties.

The businessman also runs a free daily feeding programme targeting thousands of vulnerable street families in Mombasa City. 

Following the memo that essentially ended the philanthropy, the Commission for Human Rights and Justice (CHRJ) moved to the court to overturn the directive and restore the program. 

In an application filed under a certificate of urgency, the lobby’s executive director, Mr Julius Ogogoh, lamented to the court that the directive had thrown many health facilities in the county in disarray, because they primarily benefit and or depend on donations and financial support from well-wishers to supplement the funds from the county and the equalisation funds from the national government.

 “It is worth noting that the supreme law of the land has granted every citizen the right to the highest attainable standards of health, which include the right to health care services,” said Mr Ogogoh. 

He lamented that in a country where most citizens are poor and overburdened by the high cost of living, the county acted irresponsibly and insensitively by blocking well-wishers from helping the poor and the less privileged. 

The lobby group said many poor patients are likely to be detained at the health facility if the directive blocking the financial support is not suspended and quashed altogether. 

“The larger citizenry is at risk of being denied access to health services, in a country where the cost of living is already out of the reach of the common mwananchi,” said Mr Ogogoh. 

He has argued that emergency medical services are paramount, especially in the wake of the Shakahola tragedy in Kilifi county that is still gripping the country with many victims likely to be in need of help to pay medical bills. 

Mr Ogogoh wants the directive overturned, arguing that many poor people who could benefit from the programme would be negatively affected. 

“The applicant asks for an order quashing the memo by Mr Ahmed restraining health facilities in the county from either seeking or receiving donations or financial support,” he said. 

He also wants the court to issue a directive prohibiting the county from directing health facilities in the county from either seeking or receiving donations or financial support from the businessman.

The matter will be mentioned on May 31.